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Before Giving Advice, Consider This First For best results, keep roles and conflicts of interest in mind.

By Gael O'Brien

This story appears in the March 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »


Q: I'm grooming an employee to run my next location, but she has also developed (on her own time) a prototype for a product that can benefit clients in our field. She kept me informed about the project, and I've been providing ongoing feedback.

I declined her offer of partnership because I don't want to divert time and money, but I'm tempted. She intends to keep working for me and is also looking for investors to take her product to market -- but recently, with my feedback, she turned down an investor we thought wasn't trustworthy. I'm happy to continue advising her, but could my involvement backfire?

A: The good news is your ethical radar detector is on. The bad news? The volume is way too low to be of much help. Dial it up several notches to avoid good intentions going wrong. You've combined being a boss, training your employee for a promotion, mentoring her invention and figuring out whether you want to partner with her -- and that's ripe for potential conflicts of interests. You have power and influence over her, and that gives your ideas, advice and even off-the-cuff comments more weight and impact than you may intend.

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